The New Year's Switch Up: Caffeine
Raise your hand if you love a cup of coffee in the morning! I know I do. According to statistics, more than 54% of North Americans love to start their day with a hot cup of java, and more than 90% consume caffeine in one form or another on a daily basis.
While sometimes there's nothing better than a mug full of latte first thing in the AM, be warned: caffeine can have some pretty adverse effects on our health.
Caffeine works by stimulating our sympathetic nervous system and triggering the "flight or fight" response in our bodies. This response then tells the adrenal glands to release adrenaline, in order to fight or flee from a perceived threat. INCREDIBLY useful if you're being chased by a grizzly bear. Not always so helpful in the modern world.
The more we instigate the fight-or-flight response, the more sapped of juice our adrenal glands become. Add in all the non-life-threatening stress and stimulus we're subject to on a daily basis, and you can see how exhaustion and burn out are right around the corner.
Caffeine is a mild diuretic, which means it encourages the body to eject fluids (via urine and feces). While this can sometimes be useful for eliminating toxins in the body, when it happens repeatedly (like, every morning), it can lead to some serious dehydration.
Dehydration is a killer when it comes to sustainable energy and optimal health.
So what to do?
Caffeine is also highly addictive, so if you're thinking about giving up the morning coffee based on what I've written above, but still experiencing some resistance to it, don't worry: you're just addicted, not crazy. Even I love to drink a cup of coffee most mornings.
What I recommend is the following: start paying attention to how you really feel when you drink a cup of coffee. If you're jittery and nervous, and then experience a crash around 2 pm, lowering caffeine intake might be good for you.
If you're mostly okay, have at 'er - one cup a day is okay. A full pot before breakfast each day is not.
Varying your intake can also help, so I've included some low-caffeine and caffeine-free options below.
Dandelion root and/or chicory root tea
These roots can be brewed separately or together, and bear an uncanny resemblance to coffee in both consistency and flavour.
Rooibos has a density and slight bitterness that reformed coffee drinkers find comforting. A bonus is that you can find it in all kinds of delicious flavours, like vanilla and citrus.
Swiss water decaf
It was a toss-up as to whether to include this under caffeine-free, or low-caffeine. To be clear: decaf coffee retains traces of caffeine. However the amount is usually so marginal that you won't experience the effects.
Health tip: Always go for swiss-water decaf. It's the only decaffeinating process that's totally free of yucky chemicals (and it tastes better, too).
Made from the young buds and leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (which is the source of all caffeinated teas), white tea is low in caffeine due to the immaturity of the plant when its leaves and buds are picked.
Slightly higher in caffeine than white tea, but still less than black tea or coffee, green tea has the added bonus of being a powerful antioxidant.
Matcha is made from ground green tea leaves. Its consistency is dense and frothy, much like a latte, and, due to its concentration, its caffeine count is slightly higher than regular green tea.
If you're planning to cut the coffee, remember that caffeine is addictive, and hence a cold-turkey approach can have some pretty negative side affects. Try weaning yourself off by moving to a black tea first, and then work your way down to a white tea, then perhaps a rooibos.
Happy, healthy sipping!